What an amazing effect a win could have to the beginning of the week. The game ended at 1 a.m. Malaysia time on Monday morning and while it was a work day, it was worth it.
Although it was not one of those games that you could term a classic but at the same time, it was a game that both teams needed to win in order to secure its respective football ambitions. Going into this game, City fell 8 points behind their red rivals after they’ve beaten QPR 2-0 earlier in the day whereas the Arsenal would be most eager to shrug off their capitulation against Rangers last week for an automatic Champions League spot.
The 1st half was nothing to write home about probably because both sides played too cautiously. Of course the highlight of the opening period has got to be the crazy tackle by Mario Balotelli on Alex Song just shortly before the twentieth minute mark.
Funniest thing was – it got unpunished. Earlier in the day, QPR’s captain Shaun Derry was sent off for being the last man after a tackle on Man Ure’s Ashley Young who was clearly offside when the Man Ure ball was played in by one of the scum I’m not bothered to remember. These inconsistent decisions are ruining the game and making the lesser lights seem weaker than they really are but it was testimony to QPR’s resilience (even with one man down) that the scoreline wasn’t quite the same as when Arsenal paid a visit to the red side of Manchester.
Anyway, thank goodness that Alex Song is still in one piece. Leg-shattering accidents have happened to Abou Diaby, Eduardo da Silva and Aaron Ramsey before and we don’t need anymore of this stuff happening to the Arsenal. Should have been a straight red for Balotelli but the referee doesn’t think so. It could have changed the complexion of the game in Arsenal’s favour very early on but such is life. Remember the 2005/2006 Champions League final?
I was actually quite surprised at how careless Man City was when making forays down the flank – the number of misplaced long passes and so on was quite a (ironically, pleasant) surprise as I thought that the Sky Blues would be doing a lot to silence their critics and dispelling the choker tag. Instead, Sergio Aguero was effectively halted by both Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny with Bacary Sagna in commanding form on the right flank. Kieran Gibbs was substituted for Andre Santos who was immediately called into action, making a clearance out of Gareth Barry’s way.
As the game edged closer to its end, we could sense an Arsenal goal coming from somewhere – Robin van Persie hitting the post with a header out of nowhere – and the goalmouth scramble resulting from Theo Walcott’s shot which was somehow tipped clear by Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart directly to the path of Vermaelen who miskicked the ball which fell to Yossi Benayoun who also scuffed his chance. Tomáš Rosický (who was only a few yards away) was furious and rightly so.
City until then, only looked sporadically dangerous and Samir Nasri, who swapped clubs for money, was subbed in the 77th minute for Serbian fullback Aleksandar Kolarov. He left the pitch to a chorus of displeasure by the Arsenal faithful and quite right too. Most of all, he would be primarily remembered for leaving the club with money being the prime consideration; rendering the club in a severely depleted state after the departure of Fabregas and almost too late to make any important signings.
But wait – our best signing of the season, Mikel Arteta proved how much the club doesn’t miss Nasri by scoring from one of his trademark long-ranged shots. At first, I thought that the shot had gone behind the wrong side of the net but then I saw the men in red reeling off in celebration, I knew that the Mercenaries have been beaten at last. It was simply wonderful – we knew a goal was coming and so it was, just matter of minutes before the end of the match. I’d have taken a draw anytime for sure before this match. Then the madcap Balotelli got himself sent off for a late challenge on Sagna. The common Italian gesture of praying towards the referee was a disingenuously simple way to plead innocence (and ignorance) but his luck finally ran out.
There was even time for a very late Arsenal goal – Andre Santos sped down the left flank and fed Aaron Ramsey who did all the right moves but score.
If he had shot straight at Joe Hart, I wouldn’t fault him but his exquisite chip over the bar was quite embarrassing, given that he was in a reasonably good position. Robin van Persie’s angry expression at the wayward attempt was also not good to see, even though I felt pretty sure that he would have scored if Ramsey allowed him to.
Still, it was three points in the bag against a (at least on paper) difficult opponent.
Overall, I thought that the Arsenal midfield bossed their opponents – Arteta and Song being singled out for praise. Benayoun is also looking like a good investment, especially that he seemed to be a better option than Andrey Arshavin, with his eagerness to move forward at every single opportunity and his workrate. Of course, the defense held firm against one of the most expensively-assembled strikeforce in the Premier League and provided a good basis to launch attacks against the hapless Blues. I did notice that City’s players looked demoralized and were generally out of sorts but with the vast resources available to them to make wholesale employee changes if need be, I can only say that they deserved to lose.
Next up, a trip down to Wolves this Wednesday and hopefully all three points as well, especially that Spuds fell at home to Norwich 2-1 and Chelsea fought a 1-1 draw with neighbours Fulham.